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Thousands of Russian propaganda accounts boosted the #Blexit movement on social media, according to a report from the Daily Beast. The movement, which is pushing African-Americans to leave the Democratic party in favor of the Republicans, has gained popularity in the days leading up to the midterms—with the help of accounts that have a history of pushing Russia-backed fake news.
@Blexit only has about 13,000 followers on Twitter but the #Blexit campaign has been trending on Twitter for the last few days. Candace Owens, a political commentator and spokesperson for Turning Point USA, launched the campaign a little more than a week ago to encourage fellow Black Americans to vote Republican.
Out of 250,000 tweets analyzed by the Daily Beast, about 40,000 (or 16 percent) were boosted by accounts that previously pushed Kremlin political agendas. Russian social accounts having a history of meddling with American elections, but it’s hard to assess the real impact that the #Blexit campaign itself will have on Tuesday’s elections.
The tweets analyzed by the Daily Beast came from accounts that pushed two main Russia-based social media campaigns—one bent on denying that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons in a 2017 attack, and one focused on bolstering failed French presidential candidate Marine Le Pen.
The accounts pushing the narrative that the chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria, was a “false flag” meant to demonize Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, were mostly shut down by Twitter. But thousands of the remaining accounts are supporting the Blexit campaign; 4,461 Twitter accounts that tried to derail the French election by amplifying leaks of then-candidate Emmanuel Macron’s emails are pushing the Blexit campaign now, per the Daily Beast.
Owens runs a blog, called Red Pill Black, relating her journey as a former Democrat who switched to the Republican party, encouraging others to do the same. She made a video to call African-American voters to leave the “Democrat Plantation,” accusing the American school system of teaching students Democratic propaganda.
She gained popularity in April when singer Kanye West tweeted “I love how Candace Owens thinks.” But this support was short-lived. Owens claimed that West designed the Blexit logo (that was released last week), a statement that West quickly refuted. West stepped back last Tuesday when he decided to retire from the political sphere to focus on his artistic career, writing “I introduced Candace to the person who made the logo and they didn’t want their name on it so she used mine. I never wanted any association with Blexit. I have nothing to do with it.”
The #Blexit movement launched a week ago is also using the name of another movement by the same name launched in 2016. The original Blexit issued a press release last week disassociating itself from President Donald Trump, saying that it’s “organizing economic resistance towards financial renaissance in response to systems of oppression” to benefit Black Americans.
H/T the Daily Beast
Stéphanie Fillion is a French-Canadian journalist covering politics and foreign affairs in Montreal, Canada. She has worked for Radio-Canada in Vancouver and was a San Paolo fellow at La Stampa in Turin. In 2015, she won the Eu-Canada Young Journalist Award. She holds an M.A. in Journalism, Politics and Global Affairs from Columbia Journalism School and a B.A. in Comparative Politics, History and Italian Studies from McGill University. Her work appeared in outlets such as Quartz, Vice News, Ipolitics, and PassBlue.